Four years ago I argued with a woman who was absolutely convinced that Obama hated America. It took me several pages of argument to realize that she was not speaking in hyperbole. She really thought that his agenda was to destroy the country. She did not think it was a secondary effect of a well-intended agenda. She saw a hatred and vicious anger which, even with her help, I never could see. I was baffled. To be completely honest, I remain baffled. I also remain in touch. She is still my friend. Now she is saying that and other similar things about Hillary. And I am still listening. It is not that I think she is right, but I think that understanding her perspective is valuable. Partly because she is a friend and I love her. Partly because she is not alone.
This year, I enjoyed the primary season debates under the hospitality of a friend who hosted conversational commentary. He liveblogged his opinions and we joined in. It was great fun, though it may have skewed my sense of normal politics. The people were mostly a mad mix of left leaning pro-life Catholics and refugees from a republican party gone barmy. Discussion was humorous, irreverent, and not strictly partisan. We were a kind of homeless band.
But as the season goes on, partisanship is rearing and roaring. Election years can be hard on relationships and this year is harder than many. It always feels like something huge is at stake. Campaigns are well funded advertisements designed to make us feel that way and they are very effective. This year a lot of people rooting for candidates on either side insist that this election could be the very last election, unless we vote correctly. America as we know it could disappear.
I have seen several posts admonishing friends with disparate beliefs to shape up or ship out. Unfollow me if. Unfriend me if. Disconnect from me. Go away. You are invading my ideological bubble.
I am not doing it. I am not cutting you off. You can unfriend me or unfollow me or stop contact in whatever way we keep contact, but I am not doing it. You have to be the one. There are exceptions, of course. I have friends who have had pictures stolen and turned into memes. I have friends who have had people accuse and abuse them and their families. There are lines that I will draw to protect myself and the people I love, but disagreement is not one of them. You can disagree with me about just about anything and still find yourself welcome. I want you here. I want to hear from you and about you.
One of these posts struck a nerve yesterday, when a priest friend asked that anyone who is a democrat or is voting for a a democrat should unfriend him. A priest! I have enjoyed debating with this man for years, so I knew we were not on the same page politically. Still, I have read what he writes and learned from him many times over the past few years. Now he wants me to close the door.
He did not say, if you are trolling my page looking for a fight, take it somewhere else. (I can respect that.) He did not say he wants to control the message on his page and so he would not allow comments in opposition. (I would disagree, but understand that.) He said go away. If you disagree, you do not need to listen. I do not need to listen. We do not need to communicate.
I think we do need to communicate, and now more than ever. I think that we need to listen with generosity and love, especially where there is disagreement. I think that the truth can survive a good beating, and it suffers without examination. I think that perspectives matter and choosing to try and understand where another person is coming from is a way of choosing love.
I know it is bad. Not everyone likes debate. That is fine. I don't think everyone has to wade waist deep in the big muddy. But please stop slamming doors.